The Christchurch Civic Crèche Case

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This page last updated May 31 2005

1993-0529 - The Press - Crèche worker talked to provoke - counsel

1993-0528 - TVNZ - Network News
Former Civic Child Care Centre worker Peter Ellis faced further cross-examination in the witness box today. Ellis is facing 25 charges of sexually abusing children in his care

1993-0528 - The Press - Deferred sentence
A final-year law student, aged 42,.was given a 12-month deferred sentence.  Cross-examined, Mr Curtis denied goading Davidson or having conducted a vendetta against Davidson at the university by spreading rumours that he was a child abuser. He said suggestions, including from the police, had been made for mediation but he had refused.

1993-0528 - The Press - Defence begins in creche case

1993-0527 - TVNZ - Network News
An unusual turn in the Christchurch Civic Child Care Centre sex abuse trial defendant Peter Ellis opened his case by taking the witness stand

1993-0527 - The Press - Sexual practices 'discussed at creche'

1993-0526 - The Press - Ellis 'looked surprised' in toilet 
The man accused of sexually abusing children at the Christchurch Civic Crèche looked surprised and defensive when seen in a crèche toilet with a child, a witness told the High Court yesterday. Ms Helen Pinfold, with whom the accused, Peter Hugh McGregor Ellis, aged 35, lived for two years, said the incident had happened when she visited the crèche in 1990 or 1991. She had wanted to use the adult toilet at the crèche but found it occupied. Two children's toilets to her left were unoccupied. When the door opened "Peter was there and so was a little girl". The girl had a frilly dress on and was from the "big end" of the crèche.

1993-0525 - The Press - Children 'cut off' trauma       
Not all children would be wide-eyed and terrified when recalling incidents of sexual abuse, an expert told the High Court trial of a former Christchurch Civic crèche worker yesterday. Dr Karen Zelas, a child psychiatrist, said some children would be able to cut themselves off from the experience and could recall the event without traumatic emotions. She was responding to cross-examination by Mr Robert Harrison, who represents Peter Hugh McGregor Ellis, aged 35. Ellis denies 25 charges of sexually abusing children in his care between 1986 and 1992. The trial is now in its fifth week. Dr Zelas had earlier finished her case by case analysis of the complainant children and had explained that each of the children had exhibited clusters of behavioural symptoms consistent with sexual abuse.

1993-0521 - The Press - Pair 'intelligent but immature'
A final-year law student and a part time lecturer at the University of Canterbury were described ... as behaving more like primary school children than adults at a university..... Reasons for their differences were said to have included the lecturer's spreading rumours about the university campus, and his "persecution" of the law student with "outrageous allegations" of child sexual abuse. The judge convicted the student, Robert John Davidson, aged 42, a final year law student, that with intent to frighten Bruce MacDonald Curtis

1993-0518 - The Press - Children 'show signs of abuse'       
Children who had given evidence against a childcare worker facing sexual abuse charges showed many of the signs commonly exhibited by abused children, the High Court was told yesterday. Dr Karen Zeias, a child psychiatrist specialising in children and the supervisor of the Department of Social Welfare unit that interviewed 116 children connected with the Christchurch Civic Childcare Centre, said each child exhibited a cluster of the characteristics connected with abuse. The characteristics were expressions of anxiety and were not solely confined to sexually abused children, she said.

1993-0515 - The Press - Jury in sexual abuse case visits site of Civic Crèche       
The jury in the High Court trial of the former Christchurch Civic Crèche worker facing sexual abuse charges visited the site of the crèche in Christchurch's Cranmer Centre yesterday. The visit followed evidence from a detective who said a ceiling cavity in the centre's buildings had been discovered with the assistance of a boy complainant in the trial. In evidence heard previously by the court the boy suggested incidents of sexual abuse had occurred in a building at the crèche that was reached by means of a ladder.

1993-0514 - The Press - Interview techniques under scrutiny  
The techniques used to question children who attended the Christchurch Civic Crèche about suspected sexual abuse came under scrutiny in the High Court yesterday. One of the two Department of Social Welfare interviewers who questioned the 11 complainants remaining in the trial of Peter Hugh McGregor Ellis, aged 35, agreed she had used leading questions during an interview

1993-0513 - The Press - Crèche Child alleges ‘some touching’ by accused 
A child complainant had asked other workers at the Christchurch Civic Crèche to help stop sexual abuse committed by the man now facing trial on abuse charges, the High Court was told yesterday....... After saying she had disliked Ellis tickling her at the crèche, the complainant said Ellis had made children, including her, put his penis in their mouths. He had made her "real scared" and she had run out and told a teacher. On other occasions, Ellis had touched "our private parts" with his hands. It had happened "lots of times" sometimes "through our clothes" and sometimes "on the toilet". He had told her not to tell anyone or he would change her into a gherkin and eat her

1993-0512 - The Press - Child's sex knowledge ‘beyond years’ 
A child complainant in the trial of a Civic Childcare Centre worker had a knowledge of sex beyond her years, her mother told the High Court yesterday.   She had noticed behavioural changes in her daughter since she had been at the crèche. She was frightened of- men, though this had lessened to shyness now. Her daughter refused to go to the toilet alone at night. While attending the crèche her daughter had a sore bottom "for a long time". In the first of three videotaped interviews recorded last year, the girl, now aged six, said Ellis had lifted her nightie up and put food up her back bottom using his fingers. It had hurt.

1993-0511 - The Press - Girl tells of 'nasty things at crèche'  
Evidence was heard yesterday from a girl complainant now aged six. She was interviewed six times last year, in February, March, and October. The first four interviews were shown to the court yesterday, with the Crown contending they supported one charge of sexual violation by unlawful sexual connection and three charges of indecent assault. The girl said Ellis had showed her his penis in the toilets at the crèche. Other children were there and she had seen "really nasty things” happen to them. His penis had been "pale white".

1993-0508 - The Press - Boy tells of visit to house
A number of childcare workers besides the man standing trial for sexually abusing children at the Christchurch Civic crèche had participated in abuse, a child complainant has told the High Court. In a videotaped interview recorded last year, and in questioning yesterday, the now seven-year-old boy said five women workers at the crèche and another male worker had committed indecencies on children. ..... The interview in which allegations were made against the three women was the fourth time the boy had been interviewed by specialists and was done on August 6 last year. His second interview, recorded on August 4, was played to the court on Thursday.

1993-0507 - The Press - Two discharges follow child's confusion

1993-0506 - The Press - Charge dropped in crèche case
The High Court yesterday discharged a childcare worker on one of 28 charges of sexual abuse after a four-year-old complainant told the court an alleged incident did not happen. The complainant, the seventh to give evidence at the trial, made the statement after watching a videotaped interview conducted with her by a specialist interviewer in July last year when she was aged three

1993-0505 - TVNZ - Network News
Two more charges against former Civic Child Care Centre crèche (Christchurch) childcare worker Peter Ellis have been dismissed. The judge said there was significant doubt about evidence given by a seven year old girl. Ellis still faces 25 charges of child sexual abuse, his trial continues

1993-0505 - The Press - Jury told to disregard headline
A High Court judge yesterday directed the jury in the trial of a childcare worker on sexual abuse charges to disregard a headline that appeared in "The Press" yesterday. Mr Justice Williamson referred the jury to the report of the trial
proceedings and a headline that read, "Mother disbelieved crèche daughter".

1993-0505 - The Press - Boy's allegations 'trick, not trick'
A boy complainant in the Christchurch Civic Crèche sex abuse case yesterday told the High Court that allegations he had made about the childcare worker facing trial were both a trick and not a trick. In the last of four interviews with a specialist interviewer, the now seven-year-old boy said an allegation that the accused, Peter Hugh McGregor Ellis, aged 35, had urinated in his face was a trick and "not really true". He made the allegation in an earlier interview when he told the interviewer that Ellis had "weed in his face" in the toilets at the crèche.

1993-0504 - The Press - Mother disbelieved crèche daughter
A mother took a year to believe the sex abuse indicated by a child complainant, the trial of a child care worker in the High Court was told yesterday. The mother of the fifth complainant in the trial of Peter Hugh McGregor Ellis, aged 35, said she and her daughter were having a bath together when her daughter talked about a day where she had gone to Ellis's house and bathed with him.

1993-0501 - The Press - Boy 'mistaken' on some events
A six-year-old complainant in the trial of a former Christchurch Civic Crèche worker yesterday told the High Court he may have been mistaken in some of the allegations he had made. Both counsel for the accused and the Crown referred the boy to a number of incidents he had previously related to the court. The boy said some of the incidents had really happened and some "I only think happened"

1993-0430 - The Press - Child poured out story - mother

1993-0429 - The Press - Two 'disagreed' over Ellis

1993-0428 - The Press - Ellis said mother would no longer love child, hearing told

1993-0427 - The Press - 28 charges listed in Ellis trial

1993-0427 - The Press - Evidence 'might sound bizarre'

1993-0426 - TVNZ - Network News
The trial of former Christchurch Civic Child Care Centre worker Peter Ellis begins in Christchurch today, he is accused of abusing 13 boys and girls over a number of years

1993-0424 - The Press - 'Civic duty to knock over' creche accused

1993-0421 - The Press - Ellis to stand trial

1993-0420 - TVNZ - Network News
Christchurch crèche worker Peter Ellis will go to trial next week. Today the High Court turned down his bid to have charges relating to child abuse dropped. Four women co-accused had earlier successfully applied to have charges against them thrown out

1993-0416 - The Press - Crèche case media breaches alleged
by Greg Jackson

1993-0415 - TVNZ - Network News
The remaining defendant in the Christchurch Civic Child Care Centre crèche child abuse case is back before the court. Peter Ellis wants the High Court to throw out the charges against him

1993-0415 - Southland Daily Times - Crèche workers need assistance

1993-0415 - The Press - Pre-trial application

1993-0414 - TVNZ - Network News
The Education Ministry has drawn up a set of guidelines for child care centres, kindergartens and crèches, aimed at child abuse detection and how to deal with it

1993-0413 - Sex abuse probe at creche costs Christchurch up to $200,000
by Amanda Cropp (Newspaper unidentified) -

1993-0412 - The Press - Mid-year grievance hearing expected
by Martin Van Beynen

1993-0411 - Sunday News - What more is there to say?
by George Balani

1993-0411 - Sunday News - Court gag on creche four
by Matt Conway

1993-0410 - The Press - Crèche inquiry bill likely to top $1m
by Martin Van Beynen

1993-0408 - The Press - Crèche parents call for inquiry
Calls for an inquiry and speculation about compensation were among reactions yesterday to the discharge of three crèche workers………..Several parents yesterday called for an inquiry into the events resulting in the closing of the Christchurch Civic Childcare Centre and the charges against the women. Mrs Patricia Dia who had two children at the crèche, called for an inquiry into the training and expertise of Social Welfare Department staff who interviewed children about abuse.

1993-0407 - TVNZ - Primetime
Several parents who had children at the Christchurch Civic Child Care Centre crèche have called for an inquiry into the way the investigation into child abuse was handled after charges against three crèche workers, including supervisor Gaye Davidson were dismissed yesterday

1993-0407 - TVNZ - Network News
A group of parents who supported the four Civic Childcare crèche workers throughout their trial want an inquiry into the child abuse investigation

1993-0407 - The Dominion - Guilty till proven innocent
by Murray Williams - If Gaye Davidson, Marie Keys and Janice Buckingham had gone to trial in the Christchurch High Court on April 26 the charge they would have faced arose from what came to be called "the circle incident". They were said to have encouraged a co-worker to place naked children in a large circle formed by 20 adults, who indecently assaulted the children and made them kick and hit each other. While this was happening at the Civic Childcare Centre in Christchurch the adults, some of whom were said to have worn hoods, sang several songs, including I am a Cowboy and Baa Baa Black Sheep.

1993-0407 - The Dominion - Stunned and suicidal
by Murray Williams - During a two hour search of Debbie Gillespie's house, police took or examined children's games, soft toys and her guitar, but even after she was arrested she said she was too stunned to realise what was happening. It was not till a detective said "Are you a Christian, Debbie? I don't know how you will live with your conscience for the things you have done" that the seriousness began to sink in. "His manner was 'We know you have done something and you deserve everything you get…..and he said that he hoped there'd be plenty of news media to see us [arrive at court]."

1993-0407 - The Dominion - Women talk of compo
by Murray Williams and NZPA

1993-0407 - The Press - Childcare trio vow to rebuild broken lives
Three former Christchurch Civic Crèche workers vowed to clear their names yesterday after they were discharged on the one remaining child abuse charge against them. In the High Court, Mr Justice Williamson discharged Ms Gaye Davidson, Ms Janice Buckingham and Mrs Marie Keys on counts alleging they stood by while a child in their care was indecently assaulted………The women, who were first charged on October 2 last year, said afterwards they were delighted and relieved "for ourselves and our families".

1993-0406 - TVNZ - Primetime
Anne Caton, Social Welfare programme manager and Michael Marris, child and family expert debate the system involved in child abuse cases following today's acquittal of child abuse charges against Christchurch Civic Child Care Centre crèche workers.

1993-0406 - TVNZ - Holmes
After six months of appearing before the court on charges of sexually abusing children in their care, the three remaining Christchurch Civic Child Care Centre crèche workers are acquitted of the one remaining charge against them

1993-0406 - TVNZ - Holmes
Studio interview with Gaye Davidson and Janice Buckingham after they had been cleared by High Court of charges of indecent assault in Christchurch Civic Child Care Centre case.

1993-0406 - The Press - Hearing on abuse case
The High Court yesterday began hearing another pre-trial application seeking an order in relation to three of the former childcare workers at the Civic
crèche who are charged with abusing children in their care.

1993-0326 - The Press - Crèche hearing
A High Court hearing of applications relating to the trial of four former Christchurch Civic Childcare Centre workers on indecency charges will resume on April 5

1993-0319 - The Press - Crèche case applications begin 
The High Court yesterday began hearing applications which will decide the nature of the court proceedings to be faced by four former workers at the Christchurch Civic Childcare Centre. Mr Justice Williamson restricted publication of details about the applications to a description of their broad nature. Over the next week the court will consider applications seeking separate trials for the four charged. It will also consider applications which seek to have some evidence declared inadmissible.

1993-0313 - Otago Daily Times - '20/20' presents current affairs
The first item was set in this country and examined the case of Debbie Gillespie, the Christchurch city crèche worker who had been charged with the sexual and physical abuse of the children in her care and who has now been freed from having to face trial. The charges against her were dropped. Her willingness to appear on this programme was an acknowledgement of her concern for her fellow workers as well as a brave attempt to confront injustice.

1993-0311 - The Press - Mothers of abuse victims to air feelings on radio
by Anna Dunbar - Mothers of sexually abused children- are also victims, slays a Christchurch woman who will host a radio special on the issue this weekend. Ms Kolleen O'Donoghue did research on support systems for mothers of victims as part of a Christchurch Polytechnic course in 1991. The five women Ms O'Donoghue interviewed for the report "It Ruins Lives", all said they wanted the opportunity to be heard and acknowledged. Mothers were also victims when a child was sexually abused, Ms O'Donoghue said

1993-0310 - The Press - Warning on threats
Police said yesterday they wou
ld not tolerate intimidation of four former Christchurch civic creche workers facing sex abuse charges. …… The comments came after a 21-year-old man, Graham Roderick Clark, was arrested on Monday night for allegedly threatening to kill one of the defendants, Peter Hugh Ellis.

1993-0308 - The Press - Crèche staff seek $2.8m
by Peter Mathias - Compensation of nearly $2.8 million is being sought from the Christchurch City Council by 13 former workers at the Christchurch Civic Childcare Centre. Eleven former childcare workers are seeking $250,000 compensation each and two part-time cleaners seek $20,000 each. The council made the workers redundant after the crèche was abruptly closed on September 3 last year, when the Ministry of Education withdrew its operating licence after a police briefing.

1993-0306 - NZ Listener - What's being done
by Bruce Ansley

1993-0306 - NZ Listener - The other victims
by Noel O'Hare

1993-0306 - The Press - Reputation in ruins after crèche case
by Martin Van Beynen - Former Christchurch Civic Childcare Centre worker Deborah Gillespie yesterday left the High Court in theory a free woman. Privately she talks about a career and reputation ruined by the charges that she abused children in her care. She says she faces an uncertain and possibly threatening future…………….. Ms Gillespie says her discharge .has left her with mixed emotions - pleased about the decision but conscious of the continuing ordeal for her former co-workers and of the long fight ahead to clear her name.

1993-0306 - The Press - Charges against crèche workers reduced 
Three of four women accused In the Christchurch Civic Childcare Centre sex abuse inquiry now face reduced charges. A pre trial conference was held in the High Court yesterday to finalise the charges faced by the four women and one man accused of committing indecencies on children in their care. After the conference, Deborah Janet Gillespie, aged 30, was discharged on the one charge remaining against her. The four charges originally faced by Gaye Davidson. Marie Keys, and Janice Buckingham included indecent assault and sexual violation. The charges are now believed to have been reduced to one charge each of indecent assault. Peter Hugh Ellis, who faced 42 charges, is now believed to be facing 30 charges

1993-0305 - TVNZ - Holmes
Former Civic Child Care Centre crèche worker Debbie Gillespie has the last remaining charge of sexual violation against her dropped by the prosecution. The charge was dropped after the judge was told the child was unable to give evidence

1993-0305 - The Press - Crèche charges to be finalised today 
Charges against the five former Christchurch Civic Childcare Centre workers committed to trial on indecency charges will be finalised at a pre-trial conference today.

1993-0226 - The Press - Assault of crèche worker not proved 
A man charged with assaulting the male defendant in the Christchurch Civic Child Care Centre child abuse case last year has had the charge against him dismissed. After hearing all evidence Judge Costigan in the Christchurch District Court yesterday ruled that there was no prima facie case for the defendant to answer. The defendant Alexander James Bass, aged 21, had pleaded not guilty to a charge that he assaulted Peter Hugh McGregor Ellis in November last year

1993-0220 - The Press - April Trial For Crèche Accused  
A trial involving some or all of the five former Christchurch Civic Childcare Centre workers charged with indecencies against children in their care has been scheduled to begin on April 26.

1993-0213 - The Press - Options uncertain for crèche accused
by Martin Van Beynen - Uncertainty surrounds the next step in the legal process for the five former Christchurch Civic Childcare Centre workers who were on Thursday committed to trial on indecency charges. Although the High Court will attempt to set a timetable for the trial on Friday next week, several applications may need to be settled before firm dates can be set.

1993-0212 - The Press - Crèche workers sent for trial
Five former Christchurch Civic Childcare Centre workers were yesterday committed to the High Court for trial on charges that they committed indecencies against children in their care. After one of the longest deposition hearings held in New Zealand
, Judge Anderson ruled in the Christchurch District Court that the Crown had adduced sufficient evidence to warrant the defendants being committed for trial on most of the charges.

1993-0211 - TVNZ - Primetime
Five crèche workers from Civic Child Care Centre facing sex charges have been sent for trial in the High Court in Christchurch, after one of the longest deposition hearings in this country

1993-0211 - TVNZ - Network News
Five crèche workers from Civic Child Care Centre facing sex charges have been sent for trial in the High Court in Christchurch, after one of the longest deposition hearings in this country

1993-0211 - TVNZ - Holmes
Five crèche workers from Civic Child Care Centre facing sex charges have been sent for trial in the High Court in Christchurch. Many crèches in Christchurch have formulated new sexual abuse guidelines and designing programmes to try and protect both the children and the childcare workers

1993-0211 - The Press - Crèche ruling likely today
A decision on whether five former Christchurch Civic Childcare workers should stand trial on charges that they committed indecencies on children in their care is expected at 3pm today. Judge Anderson said after closing submissions were completed yesterday he would endeavour to deliver his ruling at the specified time

1993-0210 - The Press - Submissions suppressed
A District Court judge yesterday suppressed submissions by counsel for the defence and the Crown on the evidence against five former Christchurch Civic Childcare Centre workers. Judge Anderson, acting on an application by all counsel in the case, made an interim order suppressing the submissions which are expected to continue throughout today.

1993-0209 - TVNZ - Holmes
Background to the depositions hearing involving the Christchurch Childcare Centre in which five staff are charged with sexually abusing children. The hearing is in its final stages

1993-0205 - The Press - Crèche absence 'unlikely'  
The Christchurch Civic Childcare Centre could not have operated if the women workers facing indecency charges had attended an alleged incident away from the crèche, a former crèche worker told the Christchurch District Court yesterday. Ms Paula Scott said the staff-children ratios at the crèche meant it could not have carried on if the defendants had attended an alleged circle incident where children were kicked, burnt, and indecently assaulted at a Hereford Street house. The allegation made against the women defendants. Peter Ellis, and also herself and other crèche workers was ridiculous and a "little weird", she said.

1993-0204 - The Press - Crèche worker shocked  
The reaction of a crèche worker when she first heard allegations that fellow-worker Peter Ellis had committed indecencies against children at the Christchurch Civic Childcare Centre was total disbelief, the District Court was told yesterday. Janice Virginia Buckingham, who also faces charges, said she had left a later meeting with the police in March 1992 with the belief Ellis was guilty and told him so. “Detective Eade told us this man had been committing offences under our very noses and I came away thinking this was real.” She had tried to comply with a police request for her to get Ellis to confide in her so she could relay the information back but in the end she "could not do it." Ellis had telephoned her at home but she had found contact with him exceedingly upsetting because by June-July 1992 she was starting to doubt whether he had done anything.

1993-0203 - The Press - Claims against women bizarre 
Claims that women workers had abused children under their care at the Christchurch Civic Childcare Centre were totally bizarre, the assistant supervisor of the crèche told the District Court yesterday. When a summary of the charges against her was put to her by her counsel, Mr Gerald Nation, Marie Keys said she found the whole scenario abhorrent and had never been involved in any abuse of any child. If children had been kicked, burnt, and poked with needles as the prosecution had contended, they would be devastated and would not be able to cope, she said.

1993-0202 - The Press - 'Shielding' worker denied

1993-0130 - The Press - Women deny abuse charges

1993-0128 - The Press - Doctor retracts view on child's sex abuse
A doctor retracted her view that a complainant in the Christchurch Civic Childcare Centre inquiry had been abused, the District Court was told yesterday. Dr Pamela Lyttle said she had examined the complainant in September 1992, and concluded the child gave the appearance of having been penetrated by a blunt instrument. Photographs were taken, but after they were lost by Christchurch Hospital the child was called back for re-examination. Dr Lyttle said due to using a different method of examination, she became satisfied the irregularity detected earlier was within the range of normality.

1993-0127 - The Press - Police 'were concerned' for creche accused

1993-0126 - The Press - Location of spaces

1993-0126 - The Press - Police led to cavity at creche

1993-0124 - The Press - Ellis to stand trial

1993-0123 - The Press - Hidden spaces found at childcare centre

1993-0123 - The Press - Lynch-mob justice unacceptable - judge

1993-0122 - The Press - Questioning of child a worry
A witness in the Christchurch Civic Childcare Centre child sexual abuse hearing said she was concerned at the extent to which one of the complainants had been interviewed by his parents. An assistant psychologist with the Department of Social Welfare's specialist services unit, Ms Susan Kaye Sidey, said concern had also been expressed by others at the lack of effect displayed by the complainant for the events he had described.

1993-0121 - The Press - Hearing in 8th week

1993-0120 - The Press - Hearing resumes

1993-0119 - TVNZ - Network News
After a Christmas adjournment it was back to court today for the five Christchurch crèche workers accused of abusing children in their care at the Civic Child Care Centre

1993-0119 - The Press - Crèche hearing adjourned

1993-0115 - The Press - Guilty plea to attack on Civic childcare worker

1993-0113 - The Press - Child case to resume